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article imageOp-Ed: Milking the Internet cow — Making money out of reporting Assange

By Paul Wallis     Jan 26, 2011 in Internet
“News” is now circulating citing unnamed Pentagon sources that the US is finding it difficult to collect evidence against Assange to indict him. No official statement has been made, but the Internet is abuzz. Everything is “news” on this subject.
The net is festering with rumors and even that most satisfying form of information, people quoting Tweets.
The news isn’t actual news, it’s news about news. The Internet, as usual, has made a communications workshop out of hard facts. It’s like a nice game of pass the parcel, except people make a lot more money out of it.
The quality, to put it mildly, is variable:
The Australian Daily Telegraph has a report on the prosecution difficulties citing NBC as a source. This information states that the problem is directly connecting Assange to Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of stealing classified information and passing it on to Wikileaks.
The NBC story doesn’t name names. It isn’t an official statement. It looks more like a typical few words from non-attributable sources.
The UK Register is running essentially the same story.
There are 498 listed articles on Google News related to bits and pieces of the story, with runoff stories including another rumor, that The New York Times is about to open its own leak portal, among others, “inspired by Al Jazeera”.
Associated Press is running a story which states that a company employed by VISA to investigate the Wikileaks issues has found no evidence that Sunshine Press, the Wikileaks fundraising body based in Iceland, breached any of VISA’s rules or Icelandic law.
has an article stating that reporters covering the Wikileaks saga had their emails hacked. Forbes is highly skeptical of the information, saying there’s no evidence. Wikileaks is said to have a “hacker image”, rather interesting in view of the fact that Wikileaks operates at arm’s length, understandably, from sources.
Yes, folks, it’s all fun on the Happy Go Lucky Internet Information Farm, where eggs are laid every second. As information quality goes, it’s more like water cooler material. As hard information, it’s about 99% non-existent.
It’d be easy to make a snide comment (or several) at this point about “expedient journalism”. This is the process of running a conjectural or speculative storyline through unnamed sources and sticking a few nouns and names in it to suggest relevance and accuracy. However, let’s remember all of this stuff has to go through editors to get published at all. Somebody thinks this is news.
Chicken Little had the same problem, as readers will recall.
Some of the info is well wide of any known facts, including physics:
One source reports that Manning was accused of stealing 250,000 documents, and burning them on a CD. He’s actually charged with “over 150,000” documents, and “on a CD”? Have you ever tried burning 1,000 documents on a CD?
Let’s get this straight- The only real sources of news in the Wikileaks saga are:
1. Wikileaks statements
2. Assange’s lawyers or positively attributable to Assange
3. The US government’s official statements
4. The US military, in relation to security issues and Manning
5. The State Department as a separate legal entity involved in the case
6. Identifiable parties directly involved
7. Manning’s lawyers
8. Parties affected by the leaks, insofar as they're/were involved
Anything else, in effect, is from third parties, secondhand “news”. Non-attributed information can also mean “We’re not reporting this under oath, but this is what we’ve heard.”
Internet readers should take all this fluff with a few kilos of salt. This is information farming, and it’s yielding a crop of something most people wouldn’t eat on a bet.
It’s ironic that Wikileaks, the openers of floodgates of real information, is being reported by “real” news sources on the basis of semi-plausible or non-information.
It’s also an indictment of the ability of the Internet to dig into information and critically weed out the garbage that usually goes with major stories. Wikileaks reporting has become an industry.
Excuse my rephrasing a very relevant statement for my own purposes:
The price of liberty is honesty. If you’re not prepared to pay that price, do the world a favor and shut up.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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